How effective are they and do they really work?

As the pressure mounts on companies to be more sustainable-minded, it can be difficult to figure out how to best mitigate your company’s carbon emissions. With more businesses promising to offset their CO₂ footprint, the debate over the effectiveness of these initiatives is growing.

So is carbon offsetting an effective tool to reduce the impact of your business on the planet? How can you be sure that you have chosen the best carbon offsetting solution and that there are no limitations to this approach?

Since the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in our atmosphere has skyrocketed. Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect, a phenomenon that drives global warming and ultimately climate change.

The NOAA Climate.gov graph, adapted from the original by Dr. Howard Diamond (NOAA ARL). Atmospheric CO2 Data from NOAA and ETHZ. CO2 Our World In Data and emissions data from the Global Carbon Project.

Tragically, human activity causes carbon emissions. Everything we do contributes to our carbon tally, the industrial process that makes our clothing and gadgets, from eating meat and heating our homes. Measured in tons, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases that an individual or an entire organization produces through its activity.

To give this perspective, the average person living in India produces 1.5 tons of CO₂ per year. But while these statistics may be irresistible, we can take steps to reduce these numbers quickly. For example, 0.45 tons of CO2 is saved if every 1000 miles of passengers do not fly, and changes from air travel to rail travel alone can have a significant impact, especially for frequent travelers.

Theoretically, carbon offsetting works because it allows anyone to be part of a global investigation into tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Since climate change is a global problem, a company or individual can contribute to offsetting schemes and help reduce carbon emissions regardless of their location or situation.

So why don’t environmentalists believe in carbon offsetting?

From green washing to double counting, carbon offsetting faces similar criticism from scientists and climate workers.

Mistakes and manipulation

Offsetting is often subject to scrutiny, because in the past, the carbon market has been plagued by inconsistencies and errors. Programs established during the offsetting childhood gave very little control, so there is heated debate over whether their efforts should be counted against the new goals.

Both business and country can manage offsetting initiatives. There have been instances where companies have been encouraged to reduce their emissions where companies have deliberately increased their carbon contribution rates in order to reduce levels once again.

Jungle view

Redundancy

One of the main criticisms of some carbon offsetting programs is redundancy. Arguments are based on the assumption that if offsetting project funding activities already occur, they do not provide real value in reducing carbon emissions. Energy efficiency projects such as wind and hydropower ventures are often the most difficult to prove because there are so many social, economic and environmental factors involved.

Durability

Carbon offsetting initiatives are only truly effective if they are sustainable. While it is easy to guarantee the sustainability of industrial solutions such as methane capture and renewable energy projects, it is difficult to be sure of more nature-based climate solutions.

For example, while a government may allow an initiative to convert a forest area into a national park, only another elected party may withdraw the plan year after year. After all, tree planting efforts are only effective in reducing carbon if they are not cut down by future generations. On top of human intervention, devastating wildfires that are increasing in frequency are again another threat to the effectiveness of afforestation efforts.

Over estimation

The carbon offset market is still relatively new, and as such, there is still much debate about how reductions should be calculated. There are concerns that double or triple counting, where multiple stakeholders could blame the same carbon reduction on their individual targets, could weaken the entire market.

The emissions count continues to be a hotly debated issue, with Brazil’s request for a double count making major sticking points for discussion in COP25 and facing further controversy in last year’s COP26.

Overestimating the results of a project can also be a significant problem. Concerns about meeting key carbon emissions targets in Canada, for example, were raised when it was revealed that the government was too ambitious in its calculations.

Leakage

The concept of leakage highlights the risks of carbon emissions initiatives that simply divert planet-damaging practices to other areas. For example, a forest is designated for protection and becomes a national park. Suppose habitat loss drives more people to work where they have to travel, or they become illegal loggers for survival, or deforestation and deforestation. In that case, the leak does not mean that the project is an efficient form of carbon offsetting.

Greenwashing

The ultimate and perhaps most well-known criticism of carbon offsetting is that it enables companies and governments to greenwash their harmful practices. Activists argue that some organizations use offsetting as a marketing tool to present an environmentally-conscious look while refusing to see more significant ways to reduce their CO2 emissions.

For real results, carbon offsetting is the second thing you need to do on the way to sustainability

It is becoming increasingly clear that our time is fast running out to counter the effects of the climate crisis. As the effects of global warming increase in numbers and violence, it will not take long for personal and economic effects to skyrocket.

As governments expand their climate policies and public opinion calls for meaningful change, Businesses are coming under the spotlight appropriately for their sustainable practices. Companies that are moving beyond the curve and making significant changes now are not only winning over customers, they are proving the future of their business.

Plastic and little fish in the sea

Over time, this approach may seem less cost-effective in the long run when governments implement more environmentally-friendly regulations that ignore calls for net-zero emissions.

Check out our list of 8 inspirational companies that are reducing their carbon footprint with impressive initiatives!

Aware of the green wash that has hampered progress in the past, consumers want their favorite retailers committed to real change. Unfortunately, relying on carbon offsetting is no longer an effective way to achieve net-zero. Nowadays offsetting is seen as a minimum requirement and is seen as a cut-out for brands whose marketing environment revolves around the demand to be enthusiastic.

An honest audit of your emissions, from supply chain to corporate travel, and making real changes to reduce your carbon footprint can win clients’ minds and positively impact the planet. But this does not mean that the carbon offsetting project has no value.

When it comes to helping carbon credits A more meaningful step towards carbon neutrality To alleviate the progressive and those inevitable emissions of the end.

So, in the meantime, how can you choose a high quality carbon removal solution?

When you design to implement more meaningful change or to reduce the final inevitable emissions, it is important to choose an initiative that really makes a difference. To ensure that the carbon offsetting project you are supporting is effective, it needs to address the concerns described above. First, when selecting an enterprise, consider whether it provides a solution that has the potential for time-tested weather.

Forestry has traditionally been used to offset programs to act as a carbon sink. But time has shown that forests can be subject to the will of politicians and increasingly subject to forest fires.

As a result, scientists are exploring various ways to absorb our carbon emissions, such as turning them into rocks. While this technology is new and expensive compared to other solutions, the long-term benefits may make it a more viable alternative.

As we have seen, another major cause of carbon offsetting is redundancy. To overcome this concern, it is vital to find a committed project Strict monitoring, regular auditing, and transparent accounting of its results.

The third consideration to deal with is double counting. Does the program you are considering work in a country that includes emissions reductions sold to other users for its own purposes?

The final part of the puzzle is noticeable leakage. Could the project push environmentally friendly practices elsewhere, or does it support other sustainable goals, such as job creation, that will probably strengthen its carbon-busting power?

Knowing where to start your search for an initiative that ticks all these boxes can be challenging. The easiest place to start might be the Certified Board where there will be a list of trusted programs that you can grasp.

The natural habitat of ostriches

Should I seek recognition?

So how can you be sure that the projects you have legally selected make a difference? A number of certification boards regulate carbon offset credits so that they meet certain standards regarding their implementation and procedures for measuring results. These carbon reduction projects often let visitors see their work in person. While an inspection may not be the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, choosing a carbon offset program is a wise thing to do for transparency.

The most famous recognitions include;

  • Worse
  • Gold standard
  • Green-e
  • Live plan
  • Climate Action Reserve
  • Climate, community and biodiversity alliance
  • American Carbon Registry

When choosing a carbon offsetting project to support, the easiest way to ensure that your contributions are going in the right direction is to check if it has received an approval seal from one of these certifications.

What are the different types of sustainability projects my company can invest in?

Carbon offset programs have come a long way. Nowadays companies have a lot more options than planting trees to reduce their own emissions.

Habitat recovery

This natural approach has previously focused primarily on recovery efforts, such as the well-respected Cambodian REDD + afforestation project. But now, activities have been expanded to protect or revitalize other ecosystems that are great absorbers of carbon. Recovering habitats such as wetlands and mangroves can help reduce carbon emissions, increase wildlife populations, and prevent flooding in low-risk areas.

Methane and carbon capture

Methane emissions have caused global warming to increase by a quarter. In Thailand, initiatives such as the biogas program address this problem by accepting methane from palm oil and refining it into fuel. As we have seen, other projects are taking captive emissions and turning them to stone, while others aim to reduce methane emissions by incorporating a certain type of seaweed into more agro-based and cattle feed in nature.

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